12.24.2009

Carol-line


This year's favorite Christmas carol line:

"The Word of God must learn to speak." (See below for Matt Osgood's "On Christmas Day")

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May you not miss the wonder of Christmas: the hope of a Savior, and the peace of eternal with Him.










On Christmas day, a humble girl
gives birth to hope for all the world,
this is Immanuel.
How awesome and mysterious,
the Lord of heaven draws near to us,
this is Immanuel.

The hands that once split night from day
now feebly clutch a blade of hay,
this is Immanuel.
Majestic king, now small and weak,
the Word of God must learn to speak,
this is Immanuel.

This is our God, seen by our eyes,
the love of the Father made known in Jesus Christ.
This is our God, worthy of praise,
the love of the Father revealed on Christmas day.

The shepherds come and bow to him,
the Lamb who takes away our sin,
this is Immanuel.
For God has entered time and space
to show the world his endless grace,
this is Immanuel.

12.19.2009

Crossing the Pond

"It is desirable that a man be clad so simply that he can lay his hands on himself in the dark, and that he live in all respects so compactly and preparedly, that, if an enemy takes the town, he can, like the old philosopher, walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety." Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

A long time ago I named this blog WordMarrow--partly in reference to Thoreau's "I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life..." and partly in reference to my aspirations as a writer. But a bigger reason was my desire to remind myself of the important things.

When I shut off all the noise--the TV and iPod and Facebook and etc.--it's easier to accomplish goals and remember my grander purposes. it's easy to see distractions for what they are: another jacket I don't need, a bigger house just for the sake of a bigger house, a film that i don't really want to watch but do just because it's there. When I turn the noise back on, I get bogged down like the masses of men who lead "lives of quiet desperation" and start listening to the ads telling me I need things and films promising distraction and Safari an escape.

In the luxury of twenty-first century United States of America, among other things, I think we've lost the gift of silence. With the gift of silence comes refreshment and reorientation of values. With it comes the ability to think clearly and rationally. (Is it just me or is there an increase of unreasonable people in this world?)

When I crossed my own pond (a.k.a the Atlantic Ocean) and I had more time to think than I had in a long time, I was a lot better off. I was healthier, happier, and more productive. I'm slowly getting that back, and I'm determined not to lose it as life gets busier.

12.14.2009

Not Just Another Nativity



Just completed marathon week at our church, including a live nativity on Friday and Saturday night. With all the busyness, I didn't really take time out to think about the impact the nativity could have on the community. I take it for granted that Americans know why Christmas is celebrated, even if they don't want to personally celebrate it for the same reasons. Should it have surprised me that God exceeded my expectations?

In our "Journey to Christmas," event, visitors mingle in the refreshment room enjoying cookies and cider and hot chocolate, and then are led by a guide to witness various scenes around the church property from the Christmas story in Luke 2. At the very end, a narrator stands by Jesus' manger and explains the reason for Jesus' birth by pointing to three crosses that light up a few yards away.

Honestly, I thought visitors would see it as just another cute retelling of the Christmas story, and that it wouldn't have much emotional or intellectual impact. It was supposed to rain, so we had to hold it indoors. It was the first year our church put it on, so there were some minor glitches and a few rough artistic decisions. Like most churches, ours is limited in its number of volunteers, so we had some young actors, too.

Nevertheless, we prayed that the rain would stop for the three hours each night that visitors would witness the scenes, and we prayed that God would send the people and that his message would be heard.

It rained all day both days... but stopped for the three hours each night we performed.

Four-hundred and fifty people came, most of them new visitors, not members of the church.

And yesterday morning our Pastor shared with us stories from the guides who had led people through the various scenes. One woman admitted, "I finally understand what Christmas is all about..." and another man asked what the Cross meant.

It was a revelation to me that there are still people out there who don't know the true miracle of God becoming man. And I had to learn that God doesn't require innovative technology and professional acting to accomplish his purposes. We'll be much more successful if we just give it all to him.

12.05.2009

Pillow Talk


I don't usually blog from bed, but just finished a fantastic book about the dangers of consumer Christianity: The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani. A must-read. Refreshingly, it's not another how-to or new-paradigm type revival book. Instead he shares wise insights about Christians' relationships with the Church as an institution rather than people; on our attempt to aim for big-scale influence which can distract us from Jesus' example; and on our faulty reliance on our own efforts rather than the graceful work of the Spirit in our Church.

There's a lot of books out there... This one's worth your time.

11.24.2009

Crawling Under Rocks Unnecessary

About a year ago I ran into an old friend at a conference. We exchanged pleasantries and small talk, and I explained that I had spent the last year in London getting my Masters degree in writing. When he found out that I had worked for a publishing company in London as a copyeditor, he immediately grew excited and began describing his recent book project. He took down my information and we said goodbye.

A few months later he sent me an email that explained his book project in further detail, and I responded with my rates and an explanation about my services. To my surprise, his final email summarized, rather curtly, that he was not asking for my editing services, as he was a very good writer and very capable of editing his material. He attached a sample of his writing as if to prove his point. Instead he wanted me to pass on his manuscript to the publishing company I had worked for. He ended our correspondence by attempting a few personal jabs at my life as a "freelancer."

I refrained from responding to him because I didn't think it was my place. If I had, I would have informed him that he was misinformed about the book business. I believe that most people who want to publish a book educate themselves about the process. But apparently there are still some misconceptions. So here's my advice to anyone who wants to publish a book. First, (and this pertains mainly to nonfiction) don't spend a chunk of your life writing a book that won't sell. Study the market. Is there a need for your book? Are there similar books already on shelves? How are they selling? How does your book differ? Secondly, find an agent. In most situations you cannot send unsolicited manuscripts to an editor, even if you know them. Most publishers prefer to work through an agent. Finally, every writer needs an editor. Regardless if you're a good writer or not, you will not be able to see all of the content and grammatical and typo problems because you are too engrossed in your own work. In fact, books go through multiple stages of editing because one editor is not enough.

With that said, I'll shamelessly plug my new website for my copywriting and editing services! Even if you're not a writer or don't need any marketing or PR materials, you might know someone who needs it, or could visit just for kicks. It's fun to see what friends are up to on the net these days, right? :)

11.19.2009

Bumper Sticker Culture

I wonder if the people who put bumper stickers on their cars would be willing to put the stickers on their shirts and walk into a crowded room. What if they had to voice their opinion face to face with real people who had real responses? Or, would they want to be defined by a pithy sarcastic phrase and risk the chance of being shunned by the crowd?

Slapping an opinion on a car doesn't allow for dialogue. In fact, I wonder if blogging has the same problem? Sure people can comment. And on the road people can cut people off or demonstrate their disapproval in other ways... but are these really the best ways of expressing opinions? In the car or on the web you're insulated from the response of others: you don't see the effect of your method in the face's of the people you influence.

When Jonathan and I moved to London, I noticed the lack of bumper stickers on people's cars. Then I came back to the U.S. and I was bombarded with attitudes staring back at me on the road and I couldn't ignore it. I think we should be more careful about sharing our opinions--especially with the method.

11.15.2009

On Self-Writing

"I didn’t make myself, I’m not taking credit for my existence, so what’s the difference between talking about myself and talking about somebody else?"

-From Donald Miller about writing memoirs. Read more here.

11.08.2009

Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookies

As promised.

The only cookie that gets better with age!

11.03.2009

Cookies

There are two kinds of cookie makers in this world: those who follow cooking time directions, and those who take the cookies out early. This little variance is the difference between brown crunchy cookies and scrumptious gooey cookies.

My mom taught me to bake the gooey kind. She taught me that when recipes say ten minutes, they really mean seven. We watch them like a hawk and take them out the minute they harden enough not to fall through the cooking rack rungs, and just after the very tippy tops turn golden brown delicious.

Two perfect cookie recipes to come soon! :)

10.31.2009

Public Transit Reform

 
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Apologies for the long absence. I'm been busy developing my new editing business, among other things. But soon I'll have a new website to announce (probably keep this blogspot, though).

Last weekend my mom visited from Denver for the weekend and we took BART into San Francisco for the first time. We spent the day with my Aunt Donna visiting North Beach (the Italian quarter), the Yerba Buena Gardens for an art gallery walk, and seeing the skyscrapers and TransAmerica building in the Financial District. Fun times, but I feel rather pathetic when I realize that we're only 95 minutes from downtown and it took us a year to get there... By this time in 2008 we had seen 8 countries and visited most of the tourist sites in London.

Just goes to show what you can accomplish when you live with an end in sight. Instead of thinking, "Someday I'll get around to it," you're propelled by a sense of urgency. As my good friend Susie wisely says, there's a difference between making time and having time. We must be deliberate about creating space for the things we want to accomplish, the places we want to see, the people we want to befriend.

Especially because there is an end in sight. Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.

9.18.2009

Airport

In the security line, some of you hunker into self-protective stances, hoping to minimalize human interaction and focus on the challenge ahead. Bagged liquids. Check. Boarding pass and ID. Check. Laptop out. Check. Undress. Check. Others of you make brazen eye contact, using the collective security-line disdain to your advantage, generating sympathetic head nods and small talk. You almost make it through and then

"I see utensils!" yells the security guard.

You and your line buddy roll your eyes.

"Who's bag is this?" the guard demands, holding up -

your bag.

Wedding present. Check.

"I guess I'll get a gift card next time" - you joke with your line buddy.

In the corridors and bars and cafes, fellow loungers and readers and typers and scratchers and drinkers and loud mobile talkers linger. You're all in it together. At least you have that.

9.07.2009

Spontaneity (here and there)

Sometimes it's good to keep a free weekend here and there. This is what I have to remind myself, a planner. I like to do lists and personal goals and am overly cautious about over-scheduling my life. But this weekend was a good reminder to me that anticipation can be overrated. Jonathan makes fun of me because I can wait to open presents, and he can't. My rationale is that the longer I wait, the better it will be. But the events themselves in the present moment they happen should be enough. They shouldn't (always) need the build up of expectation. This weekend wouldn't have been half as good even if we'd tried to plan it.

Friday we had no dinner plans, but it turned into the first time I cooked eggplant. A friend gave us some from her garden, so on a whim I decided to bread it and bake it and it was lovely! Plus, eggplant has this totally unexpected kick to it. It's the only way I've made it, but so far it's my favorite.

Saturday turned into date day in Sacramento. We went to Crate and Barrel to spend the last remaining gift card from our wedding four years ago, for starters. Kudos to C & B for keeping such a long-term policy on their gift cards! Then some wedding gift shopping, BJ's brewery where we ended up with a free pizza to take home, and a spontaneous trip to putt putt off the highway on the way home (life with the Kopecky's gets wild and crazy, I know...)

Sunday-Monday turned into an unplanned trip to a friend's cabin in the Sierras. It was perfect weather, we enjoyed a tasty cheese, wine and steak dinner on a deck overlooking rolling hills and pine trees, and had a great night of conversation (and some ill-will bred from Liar's Dice, but that was only on Jonathan's end). Good times all around.

I think I'm almost ready to get back into the work week...

8.26.2009

Finally Prided and Prejudiced


I picked up Pride and Prejudice for the first time a couple of Saturdays ago, when a visiting friend and Jonathan and I strolled by a used book shop in downtown Lodi. Pathetic for an English major, maybe, but I even did a report on Jane Austen in high school and still never read the book. I think I was put off by its popularity. I'm amazed when I go to the bookshop or the Netflix website and see fifty variations on Jane Austen's best-selling title like the Bollywood version "Bride and Prejudice," a movie about a Jane Austen book club, books made up of Elizabeth's imagined correspondence from Pemberley, books about Jane Austen lovers who take Jane Austen tours in England, and sadly even a vampire take on the Lizzy-Darcy saga, and on and on and on (Does Twilight have to take a bite out of everything?)

I'm on page 186 now, but Austen had me at 1. I finally get it.

And I'm so happy to report that the obsessions aren't overrated! Part of me wonders if it's so easy to get caught up in it because I've seen two movie versions. I watched the updated, shorter one with Keira Knightly when it came out, and I watched the 6 hour BBC production with my English friend's mom in her Cambridgeshire living room when the rest of the house had gone to bed. And of course the book is even better. Having seen the movies, it's easier for me to picture the scenery, but I am so loving the understated sarcasm and the intelligent critique of the culture and society of the time... and with the exception of the language that's maybe just a bit more flowery than ours, it's timeless.

Here's a few favorite quotes so far:

"what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?" - on being invited for an excursion to The Lakes

Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had looked forward with impatient desire, did not in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself. It was consequently necessary to name some other period for the commencement of actual felicity; to have some other point on which her wishes and hopes might be fixed, and by again enjoying the pleasure of anticipation, console herself for the present, and prepare for another disappointment.

"But surely," said she, "I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me." - on visiting Pemberley for the first time

8.20.2009

By-The-Sea



This would be my cottage and tea house! That is, if I lived in Carmel-By-The-Sea with a cottage-by-name like Windemere and enjoyed tea and scones everyday at the Tuck Box.

Someone forgot to tell me that California could be a bit English.

(Although I wonder if they knew...)

Him

Who do I live to please?

I've never had to consider this question so seriously before. Or, should I say I've never realized I should consider this question so seriously before.

It's a really important question. It's the springboard for my heartthrobs, tears, successes, failures.

Who do I live to please?

My boss? Coworkers? Hero? Friends? Family? Myself?

Whoever it is, they will be my heaven. When they are disappointed with me, I will cry tears of disappointment. When they laugh with me, I will wear the same smile for days. When they tell me what to eat and where to go and who to love, I will obey with the full velocity of lovers running into each other's arms after a decade of separation.

Because when I've found acceptance, I've found love.

There's only one who never fails to accept me, to hold me, to love me, even when I disappointment Him. If I could just wake up every morning thinking of Him, of only Him, would I be so selfish to fill up my mind with ideas of how to please anyone else? Would I waste my energy fulfilling empty rituals, knowing that the most important thing I could ever do is to be His?

No.

Because being loved by Him means--already loved. Not having to please... getting to please.

8.12.2009

1. Pocket Knife 2. Maxi Pads

For all you men out there who hate buying feminine hygiene products for your ladies...

. . . here's a handy tip for you.

Two words.

Survival Kit.

When you walk down the shop aisle, attempting to hide the little pink box somewhere-ANYwhere- (don't lie--you took the blue brand even though your wife said she wanted the pink) and another man walks by with a smirk, go ahead and tell him it's for your survival kit.

Yes, your ultimate manly survival kit that you will take with you on jungle explorations and 007 missions. And you can say the same thing to the cashier who winks at you as she passes the box over the scanner and you swear you smell flowers. Now you can smell sweat and adrenaline and musky pine wilderness air because you will put the Maxi Pads in your survival kit along with your swiss army knife and gauze.

I never would have known about this useful piece of trivia until, out of proper wraps, my husband bandaged up my wound with a piece of a Maxi Pad and told me that the military keep them in their kits. I perused the web to see if what he said was true and found this..

It's always helpful to know a bit about Maxi Pads and their alternative uses.

8.03.2009

When you decide to make a banana cake...

... your husband will become sick the same night and not be able to eat it. (Especially because the last time you enjoyed banana cake together was at your wedding and you didn't even get to take home the top tier and eat it a year later because the drummer was shoving it in his goofy grin on his way out of the reception.)

When you've finally recovered from a three month sprain and can run, you will slice the other foot with a steak knife and be reduced to limping again.

These are important life lessons--the talk of bedside tucktime with parents, and visits to the wise old woman on the hill.

"What could they possibly teach me?", you ask.

I will tell you what they can teach you, because they have taught me this:

EAT YOUR CAKE.

Limp to the store, buy fresh saltines to replace the stale, boil a chicken for homemade soup (you hear the fat cures respiratory ailments), bandage your wound, and head to the guestroom for another solitary night of fever-less sleep until your husband recovers.

But before bed, when the trees outside are whispering and the baby next door is crying and the man outside is plucking dissonant guitar strings, eat your cake. Savor it. And imagine that moment four years ago when you smeared it all over your new husband's face (or, at least tried).

Then all the illnesses and fluke injuries from the past few months will melt away like the gooey maple frosting dripping from your nose. And you will be thankful.

*****
Dear Huzzy, here's to sickness and health. I'll be happy to take whatever comes next as long as I have you!

7.05.2009

Housesitting...

...this weekend. Invited good friends to share it with (or, "with which to share it" as she would like me to say). Spent Friday and Saturday in and around the pool, hot tub, soaking and swimming under the waterfall, slipping down the slide, playing a game of water volleyball or two, dunking their spunky toddler, kayaking on the lake, walking around the lake, throwing the ball for two good dogs, enjoying late breakfast and grilled dinners, wine in a vineyard, plucking plump berries from the strawberry patch and snipping off basil and thyme for pasta tonight--

this just in: hummingbird spottings in the rose garden!

--and best of all, renewed friendship with good friends. Note to self: you can never be too thankful for good friends.

6.22.2009

Feather


Travel--any sort, but especially flying if only because it's one of the extreme forms of transportation (not counting ziplines or bungee jumping) is risky. Stuffed with surprise, shock, suspense. New locations multiply the number of uncontrollable factors.

But it is also a relief. The very fact of kinetic energy destined towards an end is a promise of purpose, the hope of better to come. Exhilaration. Careening down a runway, building speed against the traction of rough gravel, wheels crunching hungrily for lift off and finally, heart jumping into the throat in anticipation, breathless, rising weightlessly into the air, faith placed entirely in the engine, pilot, mechanics we know nothing of.

I can't imagine life without travel, without experiencing new cultures and the people and locales around them. Growing outside myself, expanding my interests, being challenged to think and speak differently, never content with my state of being.

The sense of adventure is heightened by time. Knowing it has to end eventually, in some way, increases my sense of ambition from the start of the trip and I even play unintentional mind games. Every hundred feet ascended into the air I watch a slow-motion movie of failure. A distant popping noise like the firecrackers that sound like guns, scaring me for just a second until I laugh nervously. The pop and then deflating and twisting, the twisting and ragged turning until the engine sputters out its final stale exhale, and we're left hovering in its fumes. . . and then dropping. Dropping. Sinking to the earth for the final time.

To not travel outside oneself is to become too comfortable in a worldview. Its end is my own righteousness. It's breathing without a perceivable meaning, except my own physical life which will eventually disintegrate into dirt again.

How can we live believing that the meaning of life is us, is for us, is circled around us? This life ends too quickly, floating through the air and into the earth as weightlessly as a feather.

6.12.2009

Bigger But Not Better




The plant outside our kitchen window in California. It's a bit larger than our London plant. And it attracts pretty dragonflies! One of these days I'll take pictures of the luscious vineyards and strawberry stands we get to drive by everyday.

Denver will always have my heart, but nothing beats California vegetation...

6.10.2009

Whatever Hippie Means

Due to the allowance of a particularly revolutionary and yet not so revolutionary book in my house (which I brought in myself, so no excuses here) I'm decided to reorient my personal time continuum with the divisions "BHA" and "AHA," or, "Before Hippie Amy" and "After Hippie Amy." Not because I recycle a lot more or try to hang dry my clothes as much as possible or wear dreads (cuz I don't actually wear dreads) but because I'm thinking a lot more about living in a commune these days, or at least something that looks more like a commune. What I mean is a commune that looks more like an Acts church where we share everything. Doesn't that make so much sense--economically, relationally, spiritually?

This irresistible book is called the Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. It took Shane's words to help me understand certain areas of the Bible that I've been ignoring. Maybe it's better to say I chose not to highlight those areas. I'd been hearing rave reviews for awhile, but the idea of reading it myself unnerved me a little. I knew it would be convicting and life changing. And it was true. And I'm not even finished with it yet.

Mostly it has me asking lot's of questions. Like, how can I implement Biblical ideas of communal sharing practically while living in a small town of northern California in the twenty-first century? Practically, what does that look like? I don't think I could take it so far as to share a house with people. Maybe if I was single, but not so much as a married person. But there are other ideas. Can it mean sharing household items with people in your neighborhood? Having a co-op type "store" in your church where people could leave things and borrow things? Forming a babysitting service and helping neighbors around the house with handyman stuff? Probably all of the above and whatever else God's blessed us with--including possessions, money, and time. Time. Now that's a challenge.

I guess what I'm asking is how can I be more generous? That'll be my new definition of hippie.

6.07.2009

Half Moon Bay



Plucked for a moment--

rootless, breathless--

for one gaze

of the beauty that would drown her.

5.31.2009

Not Just Another Hopeful Thought (I hope)

It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to continue living the way I have been cultured to live, and to continue to call myself a follower of Jesus.

I have begun to hear, as from a very muffled, fuzzy, static distance, the sound of weeping. I don't know who it is yet. My ears have only just begun to open after years of numbing deafness, and since I've only been tuned in to myself, it is probably my own whimpering I hear.

But the Grace in my faith acknowledges that Jesus promised his Spirit to be in us, and that he alone makes it possible for me to share in his pain--but that it is possible--to feel a tiny bit of his overwhelming lament for poverty, loneliness, consumerism, homelessness, hunger, etc. etc. etc.

If it isn't Jesus I hear, I pray that I will hear him soon, that my good intentions won't fossilize as intentions, but will germinate into practical action and I can be a useful part of the Body. That I won't be so selfish anymore. That my service could help to bring the Kingdom of God here, now, instead of my money used to continue to feed the American dream (even the Christianized version, which doesn't appear all that different sometimes...)

For the first time in my life (sad it's taken me this long), I think I've finally grasped the forever nature of eternity--it really is forever!-- in comparison with this temporary, dusty, earthly life. And for the first time, I think I've begun to sense the urgency of love in this life.

Honestly, I don't really know what's next. This is a new road for me. One that, God-willing, doesn't fulfill me, but empties me. I've been putting some thought into it. Will hopefully have a plan of action soon.

5.16.2009

Funny about that word 'actor'

I can see this is becoming an unfortunate pattern--these few and infrequent blog posts of mine. When I had all the time in the world I would get frustrated when my favorite blogs went un-updated. The empty spaces loomed over me laughing, a symbol of what I didn't accomplish when I wasn't blogging. But now it's just a blog. I'd like to blog more, but there is life to live too. And I quite like life.



Thankfully my thoughts have not mimicked my blog these past few weeks. If you took a picture of them you would see something like a skillet of half-scrambled/half-cooked eggs with partly melted cheddar goo-ing through the mush. (Ah, the multi-functional Janzow cheesy eggs... good for high cholesterol, New Testament jokes and brain metaphors...) This is due in part to books, podcasts, discussions with friends and family (too many to list here) and in part to my own writing.

But probably what's cooked up the most is what I hope is righteous anger, not just narcissistic ranting, toward the topic of American Christians, especially leaders, lying by omission instead of speaking the hard truth. My mind was opened to this when I started listening to Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church. If you haven't heard of him, he's the main pastor at a church that started mid-90's in Seattle that has grown like crazy, mostly made up of Gen Xers and Yers and a lot of new Christians who I guess you would call hipsters (I dislike the buzz word, but I guess it's the best word to describe the people there). Driscoll is also one of the founders of Acts29, a church planting network.

Driscoll is pretty controversial and in the media often because he's not a pastor who speaks niceties and vague wishy washy faith to give the Christian public what they want to hear. He holds himself and the church accountable to handling sin, prayer, Bible study, finances, stewardship, leadership, community involvement, gender relationships, sex, etc. to God's standard. He even visits local coffee shops and restaurants around his church on Sunday afternoons and asks the managers if Mars Hill members tipped well after their meal. If they didn't, Driscoll takes out his wallet and pays the difference himself. But it's not a law based church. It's not a fire and brimstone church. It's a church motivated by God's love to glorify God in the way they live, and they're dedicated to holding each other accountable for it.

My point is not that Mark Driscoll is my new favorite Christian hero. My point is that recently I've heard of quite a few American churches with leaders who ignore the Spirit-driven courage to speak the difficult truth. Whether it's confronting a member or a staff member who is living in sin, or motivating a congregation to move outside the four walls of the church into the community, or teaching about God's standard for love, sex, marriage and gender roles within marriage, too often church leaders avoid the difficult parts of Scripture. And this is because we preach the Gospel (yes, this is the most important part--don't misread my theology) but then we stop there.

Lying by omission stalls the church and shuts our ears to God's desires. We do not lack motivation. Nothing is more motivating than knowing that God humbled himself to become one of us to save us when all we wanted was our own glory. But after a person sees how much they need God and gives their life to Christ, what comes next? How can you tell a new Christian he or she has to give up his un-married sex, his binge-drinking weekends, his selfish living without giving him anything to replace it?

The point to all of this: I believe the American Church is shrinking because we are not being given a mission. Maybe it's better to say that we are given a mission (especially if Christians are reading their Bible) but it's not taken seriously enough, and the Church is not teaching us how it can be accomplished practically. Or, we are not being held accountable to it.

The Church is begging for a call to action. We are the Church. What does the call look like for you and how can it be accomplished in your community?

4.30.2009

This is No Bridget Jones

Jonathan promised to take me swing dancing when my ankle heals. SWING DANCING! :) I'm so excited that I just vacuumed the house (the thrill of anticipation somehow makes me more productive?)

Maybe we can pull off this look again:



The picture was taken before a Great Gatsby party we went to in Reno that lived up to its namesake in decadence. Women were decked out in fringe and pearls and some guys wore zoot suits and we had cocktails and dinner on the lawn. Sadly Jonathan is sans his dapper hat in this picture, but let me just say that if I had met him at one of Gatsby's roaring parties, he would have been first on my dance card.

4.26.2009

Who Will Sign My Petition?

Not speaking from my own job, but generally, I've always wondered and especially wonder after being exposed to other countries' work philosophies...

Why do Americans work so hard?

Why are our work weeks bleeding into evenings and weekends?

Why is it so rare in this country to be given paid vacation automatically--or even more than a week or two--rather than requiring people to put in the time and prove their worth before they're treated like a human being?

Why do we believe the lie that work gives us our worth? That money equals success?

. . .

I'll sign any petition to change this. Please just don't tell me the answer is socialism.

One Small (but really quite big) Step

Anyone call fall in love. Not everyone can marry their life to another's. The same is true for any obsession. It's easy to fall in like, in lust, to be infatuated and passionate and let it take over your thoughts and time. It's not so easy to commit yourself to it when it ruts into routine, when it feels like a task, when it makes you sweat, when it loses it's glitzy sheen.

It didn't take me long to fall in love with stories when I first learned to read. It's been one of the enduring romances of my life, this appreciation for linking word pictures and sentences with the purpose of interpreting life, of explaining it in ways that you hope resonates with people who perhaps just needed a different way of looking at things. Last year was my honeymoon. Kind of like how in the Old Testament newlyweds were meant to take off an entire year from work to fully engage their new spouse, to understand each other and learn to communicate in their spouse's language, that's how last year was for me and my life's ambition. Without distraction, I had all day to process what I was reading and learning. I wrote, too, but for me the value was in the absorbing, not the actual writing, because like a newlywed I was so thrilled with the newness of the experience that my head was in the clouds and the writing was sometimes foggy, sometimes clear, but not without purpose. No work is purposeless.

Now here I am, faced with the commitment I made and encountering the problems I tried my best to mentally prepare for: disciplining myself to write without assignment, with a full-time job, with only my infatuation and honeymoon years grounding me. Anyone can write. Not everyone can marry their life to a passion. So today, with God and you as my witness, I'm here to make a public commitment to the work that's called me and consumed me for as long as I can remember. And starting tomorrow, I'm going to do what anyone should do when they've made a commitment. I'm going to take the first small step of discipline. I'm not going to finish a book or call an agent--that'll happen later, in its proper time. No, I'm going to wake up an hour earlier and write before I go to work, when my mind is fresh and clean. It seems like such a small thing, I know--but that's the trick. If I'm tricked into believing it's a meaningless thing, I'll be tricked into making light of it and getting out of it. But commitment requires practicality. Romanticizing is fun and has it's place, and there will be times when it's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. But now I must act. I must avoid the snooze button. I must lift my feet out of bed and place them on the floor. I must walk to our guest room and turn on the computer and write without stopping. I must.

And after quite a few 'musts,' eventually I'll realize that I want.

4.19.2009

A Taste of Italy

You must slice thin, not translucent, milky discs of real whole milk mozzarella to top a homemade marguerite pizza. Layer them on like petals. Ring them in, over the top, until a spot of sauce is left breathing in the middle. Cover it quickly before you think it looks pretty--wet tomato rose spinning in an English Garden--cover it quickly! and sprinkle fresh snipped basil over the pie. (Unless you prefer it underneath the mozzarella. Then you should perform this step after the sauce and before the cheese. I never said the steps in my recipes were chronological.)

4.13.2009

. . .

I interrupt this blog to bring you . . . a pathetic excuse.

signed with deepest apologies,
The Working Amy Who Hasn't Gotten Her Sea Legs Back After Spending the Year Adrift in Unemployment.

More words to come soon.

4.03.2009

Last Friday Hurrah





After two take-away coffees from home and a quick errand to church, today our daytrip to Sausalito turned into a daytrip to Yosemite. Springtime, after all, is the best time to see the valley's raging waterfalls and it was supposed to be a beautiful day. Yosemite is only two and a half hours of pastoral scenery from us and we got acquainted with the rolling countryside and Mexican fruit stands before arriving in the park early afternoon. We had just enough time to catch some nice pictures in partly cloudy/partly sunny weather when suddenly it started to sprinkle...and sleet...and snow! The first snowfall we've seen since Easter in London last year, now just a few days short of Easter 2009. We grabbed some lunch and by the time we had finished the sun came out. Bright sun! So much sun that it lit up the lush mountainsides and shrubbery in a haze of emerald and lilac. Haven't seen this much green since we left Ireland last summer, and after living in dry climates most of my life I couldn't seem to soak it all in fast enough.

Here's to Yosemite and the memories we'll soon be making together...

3.28.2009

Succumbing to Tea-tation

"A cup of tea! Is there a phrase in our language more eloquently significant of physical and mental refreshment, more expressive of toil and restful relaxation, or so rich in associations with the comforts and serenity of home life, and also with unpretentious, informal, social intercourse?" --Francis H. Leggett and Co., Tea Leaves, 1900

3.27.2009

Jive N Wail




If you make reservations for a fairly large group of people (say, 10) at the Jive and Wail dueling pianos bar in St. Louis, don't expect a table. But if you ask the right server, he might just set you up with a great spot to stand and free shots (or swallows) to go around. Our reserved "area" was the alley/ramp that led to the backstage area, and after we got situated he sent us a round of shots in paper cups-- a liquid a bit too sweet but tasty. I was a bit wary, since I only had one good foot to stand on and because we were to the side/a little behind of the stage of the piano guys. But after the pianos vamped up, I realized we had the best spot in the house. We weren't in the overcrowded general area, smashed up against people who shouted with the music. We had a ledge to lean on and put our drinks. We saw enough, but not too much of the over-confident audience members intoxicated enough to do anything for a laugh on stage. (Like the woman who got up on the piano and fell off, injuring herself so that she had to be taken away in an ambulance). It was like we had our own VIP lounge (without the velvet couches), with a decent view of the piano guy who looked like Ben Folds (really. If Ben Folds was from St. Louis I would have wondered if the guy was his brother. See picture below, but sorry for the side view. I didn't want to hound him paparazzi style for an up-close.)

In the end, we did get a spot at the end of a table up front, but I really didn't mind the alley. In fact I recommend it.


3.26.2009

Update

The past two weeks have spun as fast and unpredictably as the tornados that almost reached my brothers and grandparents in Seward, NE.

A couple of weeks ago I learned from a fellow un-employed friend that she had gotten a job through a staffing agency nearby. Apparently that's how companies hire out here. With a jolt of adrenalized ambition, I headed home and applied for interviews with two staffing agencies and the very next day got a call from one of them, telling me about a job that he thought would be perfect for me. He described the company and I realized that I had come across the company's profile through a few other job search sites--in fact I thought I had applied for an online content manager position with them already. But the position my staffing agency rep mentioned was in the marketing/editorial dept.

I interviewed with the rep on Thursday. He passed the tests/info on to the company who interviewed me the following Monday, then called for a second interview on Tuesday. I met with the president who told me about two positions they were considering me forwere for--an Admin Assistant position to the president and a Webinar Marketing Coordinator. I was confident that I could handle the jobs, but not extremely interested. However, I knew I wanted to work for the company in whatever way I could, because I really appreciate their mission, management style, philosophies and size--lot's of opportunities for growth.

I left on Thursday for a St. Louis trip with my college girlfriends, and on Friday heard that the company wanted me, but didn't know in what capacity or when. Finally I got a call this last Tuesday from the rep, offering me the position of... (drumroll please...)...Online Editorial Content Manager! Surprise! Not expected, but definitely appreciated. Funny that it was the first position I applied for. (Am still confused how I got it, since my first app for it went in their junk mail and so the position was filled before I got in for an interview... but I won't question a good thing.)

On Monday I'll start work with them, a pharmaceutical publishing company that publishes two national (and for Canada) newsletters on the latest drug and natural medicine research--one for pharmacists and one for physicians. I'm excited that I'll be doing editorial work, that it's with an industry that's not really effected by the recession, and that I have a friend who just got a job at the same company and we can carpool! God's taken care of all the details (as always) and four months have been worth the wait.

So to all of you who have listened to me rant about unemployment stress, daytime television ("who's Bonnie Hunt?") and cabin fever, thanks for sticking with me. Now I can move onto new rants. :)

3.18.2009

"gather my insufficiencies/place them in your hands"

A few minutes ago two little kiddies stopped on the sidewalk in front of my townhouse. I watched from the couch as they stepped onto the porch, inches from the door. One of them stared into the dark entryway, confused. "Is this our home?" she asked her brother. "No, come on!" Her brother said. And I guess they ran off together in search of their real home.

How do you know you're home? Is it your favorite city? A house that smells like homemade bread? The comfy flannel sheets you got for Christmas? Family and friends who get you through a hard work week?

My faithfulness to Lodi has been tested since I sprained my ankle last Thursday. Nothing like an incapacitating injury to purge me of self-sufficiency and to teach me to rely on strangers and neighbors and friends alike. I admit I've thought often about how nice it would be to have family around, people I can call at a moment's notice, without feeling guilty, to drive me around for daily errands. Because that's what family is for, right? The only family I have here (aka Jonathan) has been gracious enough to take a lot of time from work for me, but I can only ask so much of him. So I've been forced to turn to friends.

It's hard to ask for help... in my case, I'm guessing it's a pride thing (I hate to admit it--but that just proves it's a pride thing.) So I think it's been good for me.

I was blessed to have immediate help after I sprained my ankle. Just a few houses down from my fall were two roofers and an older gentleman who drove me to my complex and then literally carried me halfway through my complex to my door.

I'm blessed with a friend who will let a friend drive her car to drive me to an interview, even if that means she'll be late to an appointment.

I'm blessed with a friend who will leave work and drive an unfamiliar car to take me to work, and then wait for an hour until the interview is finished.

I'm blessed with a friend who not only picks me up and takes me out to lunch, but who then drives me to the dentist and comes back for me to take me home.

And I'm blessed with friends who are on standby, waiting and willing to help when they can, shouldering me on their back through the airport if they need to.

It may take me awhile to feel comfortable in Lodi, but now I guess I would add "sprained ankle" to the list of things that makes a home.

Free Music

Does it help or hinder the music industry? Read more on Hounds to the Music.

3.16.2009

Book Winners Announced!



And the winners of Susan Isaacs's Angry Conversations with God are:

alaina
Allen L
blissbloom
Lauri
robyn

Winners: to get your copy, please email your mailing address to amykopecky(at)gmail(dot)com. Congratulations!

3.13.2009

Angry Conversations with God (and contest!)

Many spiritual memoirs or biographies I've read are crafted like a novel or a major blockbuster. What I mean is that the camera focuses in on a slice of life from the protagonist's life, usually when they make a big mistake or struggle with some kind of conflict. The story moves effortlessly along as the plot is seeded with hints of divine guidance along the way, and eventually the protagonist's eyes are opened and God's redemption of their struggles is visible in their lifetime. In most of these books the conclusion wraps the whole story up into a big tidy bow that's meant to be inspirational.

But often I don't find these stories inspirational because I don't relate to them. I think most people's lives read more like an epic--a rambling, messy, confusing maze of interconnections and surprises and dead ends and scenic views that ultimately lead to the one thing we can't live without: God's grace.

If you're looking for a book like this, I've found it: Angry Conversations with God is by actress/comedian/screenwriter/author Susan E Isaacs. It's her story of taking God to couple's counseling as she deals with the one thing every relationship must come to terms with: what it means to love God not just for the better, but for the worse. She, like me, grew up Lutheran but tries out many different forms of the American Christian church and becomes disillusioned, confused about the extent of God's involvement in her decisions. When her life falls apart outwardly, she decides to take God with her to a counselor. Together they confront God about his love and will in her life.

You may be thinking it sounds edgy, heretical, even a bit blasphemous. But after a lifetime of wrestling with God, Susan's foresight into God's purpose for her life is meaningful, funny, shocking, convicting and comforting because it's told from the perspective of a real person in the real world. She writes honestly and painfully about her life experiences to come to terms with one of the greatest obstacles in our Christian life: what it means to have faith when you can't always see the big tidy bow at the end.

So here's the thing: I've been given four copies of Susan's book to give away FOR FREE on my blog! All you have to do to win is to be one of the first four to comment about what you'd tell God if you took him to couple's counseling.

Susan's book came out March 12 and is published by Hachette Book Group's FaithWords division. You can buy it on Amazon.

A Series of Unfortunate Medical Mishaps

I don't usually like to recount stories of illness, but after this week...

March 1, Midnight: After a few weeks of weird chest pain, light-headedness and dizziness, the chest pain gets bad and I think I'm having a heart attack. Jonathan takes me to the ER where, after five hours, I'm semi-diagnosed with Pleurisy (lung membrane inflammation) and given a prescription for pain meds.

March 1, afternoon: After a church lunch of hot dogs and potato salad (I'm regretting it even now) I get painful stomach cramps and wonder if it's food poisoning or related to Pleurisy. It gets worse and I lay in bed the next two days.

March 2: Jonathan's down with a bad cold.

March 3: The doctor tells me I need to have an ultrasound, take more pain meds, and get my two infected ingrown toenails removed at a podiatrist's (one on each side of my left big toe).

March 4: Jonathan gets bit by a dog and the owner runs away.

March 6: Ingrown toenail surgery for me, and Jonathan sees a doctor about the bite who tells him to go to a clinic and get a vaccine. After five hours in the waiting room, the nurse at the clinic tells him our doctor overreacted and that she won't give him a shot because she doesn't know how his body will react.

March 7: I come down with a cold and a plugged up earache and almost lose my voice while leading worship on Sunday a.m.

March 9: Ultrasound (later I get good results)

March 12: On my second run since the toenail surgery, I roll my ankle on a curb and it swells to the size of a tennis ball. My first job interview is scheduled just a few hours later. Thankfully some nearby roofers support/carry me to my door since I don't have the gate opener that would allow us to drive to my door. Now I'm on crutches and unable to drive to a possible new job. *sigh*

To say that Jonathan golfing today and me traveling to St. Louis for a girl's weekend on the 19th makes me slightly nervous would be flirting with understatement. Pray for us.

3.07.2009

Glastonbury



Old castle stones wither through the vines on a Glastonbury plot.
Once where Cathedrals proudly towered, protecting tired pilgrims,
it bore the brunt of Protestation,
stripped, buried--
resurrected as a tourist site.
Will I be next?

3.06.2009

Notice to all Dog Owners

In the event that you, the rightful owner, take your dog for a walk, and your dog should:

a. be attached to some member of you, the rightful owner, by a leash, or
b. be roaming freely within eyesight or earhear of you, the rightful owner, and
c. bite an innocent passerby,

then you, the rightful owner, should at least have the courtesy to:

a. apologize
b. discipline the dog
c. inquire about the seriousness of the wound on the passerby.

If steps a, b and c are not undertaken by the rightful owner, ill will can be legally issued from the injured passerby onto both the dog and the rightful owner. In the extreme event that the rightful owner and his or her dog runs away from the injured passerby and does not inform the injured passerby of the dog's vaccination history, the dog is entitled to a drop kick from the injured passerby with no protestations or complaints from the rightful owner.*

*Each hour that the injured passerby spends in the ER for a rabies vaccination results in either a drop kick** or the discipline of the injured passerbyer's choice.

**of the dog or the rightful owner

2.26.2009

Things I Learned in Denver

I went to Denver last weekend to watch my brother play in his last two league games of the season. They're going to play-offs, which is exciting. I also had a job interview in the Springs, and it looks like I'll be doing some marketing writing for a book publishing company.

I also learned a few things:

1. It may look cool, but fans simultaneously throwing baby powder up in the air after their team gets introduced is the worst possible use of a toiletry substance. Especially after it disperses into the crowd's noses and on the basketball court so that the crowd has to yell at the refs to have the sweepers sweep it off the floor but it's still everywhere so they have to sweep every time out and break between quarters but the players still slip and fall on their faces throughout the entire game. Yeah, not so cool.

2. I'd never had a massage by a male massage therapist. Mostly because the massage therapists that have been recommended to me have been women, but also because it's kind of awkward to lay on a table with only a thin sheet between you and a strange man touching your body. But this weekend my mom's therapist recommended a man who does hot stone massages. It was amazing and I felt like I was floating afterwards. But I quickly learned that it doesn't help the relaxation process if I:

a) imagine him as a matronly woman (because it just wasn't possible), or
b) imagine him as my husband. That last idea lasted about a millisecond before I realized what a big mistake that would be.

3. After a little maturity happens, younger brothers really are fun to shop with.

4. If you don't know how to use your phone all that well because it's new, the time to learn how to set flight mode is not when the plane is taxiing and the stewardess reprimands you and hovers above you waiting as you try to figure it out while the rest of the plane stares at you.

5. After two turbulent flights that felt like wooden roller coaster rides, and after the woman next to me yelled, "I've flown all my life and haven't ever had a flight this bad!" I put the Drammamine chemists on my people-to-thank-in-heaven list.

6. Turbulence is the best possible way to get a quiet Christian afraid to soil her I'm-not-one-of-those-preachy-Jesus-freaks-but-a-cool-Christian reputation to form a "salvation in case of crash" plan. Mine looks eerily similar to Seinfeld's final episode in which Elaine starts to yell to Jerry, "I love yoooooooou...." and then the plane uprights itself and she finishes her sentence with "...United Airlines." Mine is more like, "Jesus loves yooooooou!" but I whimped out exactly like Elaine.

7. It's nice to come home and be reminded that my husband needs me.

2.19.2009

Tagging Game

My friend Jen asked me to play the tagging game, so here it is: three facts about me and my life (interesting or not, you decide):

1. Jonathan and I own an old TV that won't survive into the digital age without a converter box. We don't have cable. But when I visit people who have cable TV my absolute favorite network is HGTV. I love interior design and can't wait until I have my own canvas to work with.

2. I organize dirty dishes before I wash them.

3. I have two irrational fears: fear of being boring and fear of the dark. My fear of being boring started when a friend in high school told me he was breaking up with his girlfriend because she was boring. I don't know when my fear of the dark started, but my poor husband is the one who suffers for it when I wake up in the middle of the night yelling because I see things. Or maybe that's just another quirky sleeping disorder I have, like how I used to sleepwalk (almost walked out of a London hotel room before my friend woke me up) and see people in my room telling me to do things like throw the covers on the floor or type on the computer that I'm convinced is in my bed...

Anyway. I'll tag Alaina, Becky and Ali before freaking you out with other facts you didn't ask for.

2.12.2009

The difference a few months make

The last time my laptop and I went out for a coffee date was in London. To the Putney High Street, to be specific. In between sentences I glanced out the window and saw an Argos shop, moms with prams on coffee dates, big red buses, never ending never stopping streams of pedestrians, black cabs, and Nero's blue and black logo staring back at me jealously as i sipped on a Costa latte (or Americano, depending on how poor I felt).

Now for the first time since then, I'm back to writing, working on the piece that I started during the last term of my M.A. And staring back at me from the window is not a big red bus, but a big red In-N-Out sign next to a waving palm tree.

It's a different climate out here, and I've got to find a way to adjust. Somehow a California palm tree and its association with beaches and warmth and relaxing doesn't do as much for my writing ambitions as a city full of busy peds and publishing houses and literary genius. To be sure, there is intelligence in California. I've got to stop judging the state by its misleading lazy dazy ways and get to work.

2.09.2009

New post at Hounds to the Music

Listening Doesn't Have to be Passive

German Swearing

I met a German couple at a wine and food pairing party this weekend. They told me that Germans, unlike Americans, don't do Pretty Swearing. If they dropped a fifty pound weight on their ingrown toenail in the gym while flirting with their hot weekend date, they wouldn't say the German equivalent of dagnabit or fuzz bucket or even turkey, which is my parent's favorite road rage curse. They'd use the original swear word or they wouldn't say anything at all.

There's something about that I like.

2.04.2009

Why you should read Fantasy

I recently read this product description for a book I want to read by Luci Shaw called The Crime of Living Cautiously:

"Unexpectedly, the moment of opportunity comes to us--the prospect of entering a reality larger than we'd guess. A spacious option opens up before us, an urgent demand that seems to call for special enterprise, life-threatening perils or summons to action. Suddenly we realize that such a chance might never come again. What do you do when faced with such a moment? Do you sometimes get frozen into a state of inaction? Do you wonder if you are wasting the talents God has given you? Or if you enjoy adventure, do you struggle over whether a risk is just a reckless attempt to feed your own needs or a true calling from God?"

The last sentence is what gets me. It's what's been getting to me for the past year and a half as I've struggled to understand my motives in life. London was amazing. Spectacular. Exciting. Challenging. A learning and growing experience for my career, marriage, faith and independence. But by the end of it I was exhausted--ironically not from the growing pains or constant running from here to there, but from my inaction. From my couch potato state of mind. I had spent the entire year consuming, fattening myself up on the luxury of adventure and investing in experiences that would enrich me.

I've had a lot more time to think about my life these past few months, and Shaw's question strikes a deep chord in me. Are my ambitions just selfish needs, or can they be used to better lives? Why do I pursue what I pursue? What's at the heart of my desires? Is more of my time focused on how I can be served, or how I can serve love to a broken world?

It's always been a difficult balance for me, especially financially. I don't know when enough is enough. I never feel like I am generous enough with my time or money or talents. But it's made worse by our "me me me!" culture, and I wonder how much of it has invaded my psyche. We've got a crazy thing called the 'Prosperity Gospel' being preached by people who apparently read the same Bible that I do. (Interpretation is a funny thing...) We've got books in Christian bookstores written about how God wants us to pursue our wildest desires. What does that really mean, wild desires? I'm going to be really honest here and say that I'd have to dig down pretty deep to find even an inkling of what I could call a "wild desire" that wasn't selfish at the core.

I'm not much of a fantasy buff but I have read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia and part of the Hobbit. And I've watched the Lord of the Rings films and a few other fantasies. Of all the waking moments in my life, it's when I'm involved in these stories that life becomes more real than it ever does in the daylight. I involve myself with the characters, their adventurous life and death struggles and their passionate love affairs, and I place myself in their majestic, tangible world, and I think to myself: this--this is what my life would look like if I drew back the thin screen between the spiritual and physical worlds. I wouldn't recognize my own life. It would be more piercingly colorful and staggeringly horrid and achingly beautiful than I could ever imagine.

If the only thing that divided this world and the next was a wardrobe, or a screen, or death, would I have the guts to go through?

2.01.2009

Evangelical Crash

If you've ever met an evangelical...

If you call yourself an evangelical...

If you're a leader in a Christian church, ministry, school, or other organization...

Whoever you are...

You must--absolutely must--read this article.

I know, I know. So many of you are busy with jobs, with housework, with the Superbowl, but please. It only takes a few minutes to read an article that will keep you from being paralyzed like a deer in headlights by the advancing post-Christian world. It's called The Coming Evangelical Collapse. My mouth is still gaping and my heart sinking, but my reason can do nothing but nod in disbelieving agreement. It's already happening--in other countries first, and now I see it more steadily in the States.

I don't mean to be sensational or bullhorning doomsday. My only hope is that you'd read this article to make a resolve: to build your house on more than the shifting sand of church culture, church programs, political agendas and emotions. Now more than ever we can't debate, can't argue, but love: to build our daily principles on Scripture, join unshakeable communities of faith, reach out of ourselves with our actions (not just empty words) into our local neighborhoods, and of course pray that God's people would be made stronger through it--as God promises.

I would love to hear your comments after you read the article. Specifically:

1. Do you agree? Why or why not?
2. The author will have upcoming posts about what the crash will mean for our culture and the church at large specifically, but what do you think?
3. How do you see it happening already?
4. Is there hope in this?
5. How can we share hope with a post-Christian world when we look like the hateful, unloving ones? In other words, when we look like the problem?

1.27.2009

Starbucks Sex

My maternal grandma went to Starbucks for the first time last weekend. Actually, it was the first time she's ever gone out just for coffee. She went because her daughters were visiting. They shared a pastry between the five of them. She had water.

My grandma didn't grow up "going to coffee." She grew up in a time when coffee wasn't a main event. Coffee was just a cup of hot, murky black liquid ("It tastes like a cup of crappy coffee." "No, it's the world's best cup of coffee!" Ah, I love the Elf...) The coffee's hotness factor was the best thing about it, not the triple shot skinny vanilla latte extras that we order today. But Starbucks is just one example of the way we've blinged up lives since my grandma's time. Our culture demands snazzy names, design, special effects to attract our attention. We've gradually added more thrill and excitement to our daily routine and we're addicted to it.

Like with sex. In Real Sex, Lauren F. Winner says that the reason sex is better in marriage is because it is solidarity and comfort, as opposed to the thrill of the unknown. "Sometimes premarital sex feels dramatic because, by definition, it is part of a relationship that is itself not wholly stable... Everything in your relationship gets some of its charge from the uncertainty, the unknown: put negatively, it gets its charge from the instability; put more generously, it gets its charge from the possibility. This may be the single most significant way that married sex differs from unmarried sex. Married sex does not derive its thrill from the possibility of the unknown. Married sex is a given. It is solemnized and marked in ritual."

Like me with church. I'm guilty of obsession with the false, with the facade, with the fun and not the commitment when it comes to church. A few weeks ago my husband told me I'd be going with the church staff to a Creative Church conference in Dallas. It sounded amazing. Creative. Church. Communicatons.--exactly what I love. When he told me later that the opportunity had been given to another staff member, I was devastated. Too devastated. The problem was I had bought into church the way the world buys into sex: I'll take the big productions, go to the motivational conferences that talk about the good we can do when we get back to our routine world--the polished, pretty part of faith. But when it comes to committing myself to the daily grind, to the loving by serving when it gets messy and deals with the real, the gritty life, that's not so thrilling.

I am a whore I do confess/I put you on just like a wedding dress/and I run down the aisle, run down the aisle/I'm a prodigal with no way home/I put you on just like a ring of gold/and I run down the aisle, run down the aisle, from you (From Derek Webb's song "Wedding Dress")

1.24.2009

Bus Debates


We took this picture a few days before we left London. A large church in London called Holy Trinity Brompton started up a bus ad campaign for their Christian outreach class called Alpha. We went to the church a few times and heard countless stories about the global transformation the teaching program has had. Not many people in the U.S. have heard of Alpha, but considering how many lives it has changed, I was kind of excited to see the unconventional ads on the buses.


In response, the British Humanist Organization started up their own ad campaigns. They have every right to post their own ads about their beliefs. I respect their right to free speech. But more than anything the ads confuse me. It's a lot of money spent PRing for--who? Or even, what? Most ads feed on the promise of hope and betterment of our daily lives in some way. Who does this ad benefit? They're marketing meaninglessness as if it's a good thing. What's really interesting is that every other product in today's culture capitalizes on our egos to get the desirable impact. "Come on, buy a flatscreen. You deserve it!" "Go ahead, splurge on a new car. You're worth it!" Telling someone not to worry because there's not a God probably doesn't do a whole lot for people's self-esteem (in my opinion).

Regardless of the point of the campaign, I tend to agree with Steve Lawson about the method:



(Thanks to Tall Skinny Kiwi for the pictures)

1.22.2009

Announcing New Music Blog

Hounds to the Music, LLC is a new website that a musician friend of mine is launching this summer. The idea is to use new technology to match visitors up with music that they'll like. There are a lot of sites out there now that claim to do the exact same thing, like Aimee Street, Reverbnation, Pandora and Muffin, for example, but to my knowledge and my friend's, the results aren't as good as they can be--especially in light of the web 2.0 strategies available to us.

To help build up a following, he recently started a blog that he asked me to post on occasionally. I wrote the first post today to introduce myself and my musical taste if you'd like to take a look. I'll let you know when the regular site launches, but until then, check out the blog and share ideas. Definitely let me know if you've tried any music matching sites with good results.

1.21.2009

'Always the Women' to come to Stockton

I'm always on the lookout for a good show. A friend recently told me about a new performance called "Always the Women"--a play about women in the NT who encountered Jesus. This is what the actress, Nina Thiel, says about the play on her website:

"'Always the Women' is a one-woman play, with stories from the gospels arranged and adapted for the stage by Nina Thiel. In 60 minutes, Nina embodies 36 characters and 1 narrator to tell 24 stories of Jesus and the women in his life, beginning with Mary, his mother, and ending with Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb."

It's showing in Stockton on the 31st, but Thiel is performing it nationally. So it might come to your city! The best part about the show on the 31st is that all proceeds benefit the International Justice Mission to help stop trafficking (but I don't know that all of the other showings do).

1.14.2009

Mince Pies

I mentioned my mince pie baking in a recent post and thought I should post a picture of the result. It's overdue, but better than never. I particularly enjoyed the crust recipe, because it's the best crust I think I've ever tasted (from BBC food, but I can't find the recipe at the moment so if you want the recipe, you can email me). Best enjoyed with warm mulled wine!


1.11.2009

Before You Paint Your Guest Room Pink: A Pre-Parenting Weekend Retreat For The "Some Day"ers

Here we are: three and a half years into marriage. I suppose it's natural to start "wondering" about the "possibility" of a "time" when we "might" want to "approach" the "threshold" of parenthood. Notice the tiptoeing vocabulary. It's currently hiding behind a boulder a hundred miles away from the trailhead of Decision (not my favorite hike). So let me say emphatically--in case someone mistakes my tiptoeing vocabulary for a comments plea and bombards me with due date and sex questions--there is no firm thought here, much less decision, about the when. Only lot's of questions about life with kids at some point in the future.

The fact that we're three years married isn't the only reason I've been pondering the selfless life. It probably has more to do with the awkward position J and I are in, lodged between two very different people groups: single friends and young parents friends. We hardly have any just-married friends. It can be a difficult adjustment, but then again, transition is what defines the twentysomething decade. And overall, I appreciate the diversity and the perspective it gives me. I like living vicariously through single friends, and I like learning the ups and downs of parenthood before I consider the fun of shooting a squalling baby into my husband's arms.

Every time I spend time with kids or hear about the joys and frustrations they bring their parents, I walk away with questions. I like to think I've always maintained a realistic perspective of what parenting requires . . . which is why I'm more hesitant than eager to jump in. Once you're in, you're in--there's no going back. You can't do all the same things you used to do, you can't maintain the same schedule you had before, and suddenly life isn't just about you and your spouse's needs anymore. But I always thought that the joys outweighed the sighs. Recently, the majority of what I've heard about the experience is negative, both from parents who planned their pregnancies and those who didn't. It's bothered me.

This weekend J and I took a quick trip to Reno for our friend's two year old's birthday party. I've never been to a party with so many kids--yelling, toddling, laughing, crying kids, all racing through the house or shmeering chalk on furniture or laughing contagiously. The next day we met up with some friends who have a fifteen month old. He skilfully consumed freeze-dried yogurt snacks and a granola bar and a jar of veggies and a jar of fruit and milk, all before we even got our meal, all the while using sign language to communicate what he wanted next. Then we carried him around the nation's biggest Scheel's, showing him the stuffed wildlife and watching his eyes widen with excitement.

I'm still not sure what to think of myself as a parent. Questions push out the nearness of possibility, but then again, questions won't ever let up--even after births and terrible twos and torrential teens and empty nesting have come and gone. But this weekend did offer one answer for me: it's important to have a support network around you when you do decide to give God the chance to bless you with a child. When I was at the birthday party, I was amazed by how relaxed all the parents seemed. I don't know what they're like at home, alone with the kids, after a stressful day. But at the party, gathered under one roof with a house full of longtime friends who were going through the same things, they were calm. They were laughing and enjoying themselves. They could compare notes on weight and teeth and sleeping habits. They could nod understandingly about "MINE!" whines when other toddler's screamed "NO!" But most importantly, they could share the miracle of God the father's love for us, his greedy and stubborn kids who somehow still make him smile and his heart swell with joy.

Of course not all parents go through the same thing at the same time, and different factors come into play. But it seems to me that what's true for our life in entirety is true for parenting as well: without each other we'd just try to survive; with each other we can have fun and enjoy the ride.

1.03.2009

Breathe One at a Time

Frankly, it's embarrassing to yawn in conversations. Because it looks like *gawp* you're tired and *stretch* just plum bored with the unidentifiable slurrings sliding through slippery lips. But it's not that I'm bored or tired (usually). A few days ago I learned that yawning is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. In other words, yawns are a sign that I'm not taking the deep, succulent breaths I should be taking.

This morning I wondered if my oxygen intake says anything about the rest of me . . . the fact that I don't take advantage of the surplus floating around me, that I don't grip the resources God is holding out to me and run with them fearlessly. A book I'm reading combined with specific prayers and a Nooma video (produced by Rob Bell, Mars Hill Bible Church) were recently all in cahoots and I was convicted by how often I forget God's faithfulness. And how often I forget to breathe him deeply into my life for the daily joy I need to keep going. I admit, it's hard to persist with a smile on my face when I don't have a job and when I'm in a new place without many friends-- or even when I do have all of that, it's easy to get caught up in the frustrating details of keeping it all going.

But today a fresh wind blew over me and I sucked it all in to the ends of my toenails. He is a God of peace, and I can be content in every situation because I see this world through His filter. Doesn't mean that situations change immediately or exactly how I want them to (I'm still jobless) but it does mean that it's out of my hands and in His, and that the result is always more satisfying. I can breathe much more deeply.